(director: Henry Koster; screenwriters: Charles Kenyon/James Mulhauser/based on idea by Hans Kräly; cinematographer: Joseph A. Valentine; editor: Bernard W. Burton; music: Charles Previn; cast: Deanna Durbin (Patricia Cardwell), Adolphe Menjou (John Cardwell), Leopold Stokowski (Himself), (Himself), Eugene Pallette (John R. Frost), Alice Brady (Mrs. Frost), Mischa Auer (Michael Borodoff), Frank Jenks (Taxi Driver), Jack Smart (Stage Doorman), Billy Gilbert (Garage Owner), Jed Prouty (Tommy Bitters), Alma Kruger (Mrs. Tyler, landlady), Edwin Maxwell (Musical editor), John Hamilton (Manager); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; Universal; 1937)

“Ever so cloying as it serves up dollops of sweetness, but it’s entertaining, satisfyingly fairy tale-like and put over with much skill.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian born Deanna Durbin at 16 stars in her second film for Universal after her debut film hit “Three Smart Girls.” This crowd pleasing film met with even greater box office success than her first feature, and put Universal on the map as a serious studio–saving it from bankruptcy and making Durbin very wealthy. Henry Koster directs and Charles Kenyon is the writer; it’s based on an idea by Hans Kräly. Durbin shows off her beautiful voice singing “It’s Raining Sunbeams,” “A Heart That’s Free,” an aria from Verdi’s “La Traviata” and an aria from Mozart’s “Allelujah.” Conductor Leopold Stokowski leads his Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra in playing Wagner’s “Lohengrin.”

Manhattan trombone player John Cardwell (Adolphe Menjou) has been out of work for two years. At the conclusion of a concert he begs famous conductor Leopold Stokowski for a job, but is given the brush off by staff members. Outside the theater John finds a purse and though trying fails in returning it to its owner, and instead pays his nagging landlady the overdue rent of $52. When his perky teenage daughter Patsy (Deanna Durbin) asks him where he got the money, he lies and says Stokowski hired him. When Patsy sneaks into the rehearsal she discovers the lie and at home confronts her dad. Getting the address from inside the purse, she returns it to the ditsy wealthy owner, Mrs. John Frost (Alice Brady), while she’s entertaining her socialite friends at a cocktail party. At the party one of the guests after hearing her sing “A Heart That’s Free” and her plight, tells her to form her own orchestra. Patsy aggressively asks Mrs. Frost to be its sponsor, and she says she might if she can hear them play. Back home she gets dad and the other unemployed musicians living together in a rooming house to form an orchestra of those who are jobless. They practice in a garage, but after a few days when Patsy goes to inform Mrs. Frost that the orchestra is all set for her to hear them she’s told Mrs. Frost left for a long European vacation. When her husband Mr. Frost (Eugene Pallette), who sponsors a radio show, finds out his friend Bitters didn’t pull this sponsorship bit as a gag, he goes to the garage to tell the musicians he’s not their benefactor and could not make money from an unknown orchestra and that they should get Stokowski to conduct them for one night to earn an instant rep. That’s when Patsy takes over to make the orchestra a reality and sneaks into Stokowski’s rehearsal to confront him. After Patsy’s ejected from the concert hall, the pushy girl sneaks into the conductor’s business manager’s office and answers the phone and tells the musical editor of a newspaper that Stokowski is not going on a six months European vacation before he will conduct the orchestra of unemployed musicians that are sponsored by Mr. Frost. To convince the conductor to go on Frost’s radio show, the 100 men unemployed orchestra sneaks into the great conductor’s luxurious house and the shabbily dressed joyous men gracefully play Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody.

It’s all ever so cloying as it serves up dollops of sweetness, but it’s entertaining, satisfyingly fairy tale-like and put over with much skill. Its underdog theme was ready-made for a Depression audience. It was nominated for Best Picture and won for Best Score (the winner Charles Previn was father of Andre).

REVIEWED ON 2/27/2006 GRADE: B   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/